Readers were lining up down the hallway and out onto the street, so tremendous was the interest in the launch of our new Human Library Book Café offering in London. Hosted in collaboration with the Society of Authors we have created an opportunity to get quick and easy access to our books.
Get a coffee and an open book
The new format encourages readers to grab a coffee and check out a book in café-style surroundings. You get to choose your topic and sit for up to 30 minutes asking questions of your open book. The loans can be one-on-one or in small groups. It is intimate and quite personal and not really built for larger groups of readers. Balancing demand and supply can create a slightly longer wait at some points of the day, nevertheless the feedback from readers was still excellent.
Happy books and readers
With books available on topics such as Queer Parent, Raised In Care, Blind and more, our readers used the opportunity to explore diversity and learn about how different groups in society experience being judged by the cover of their book. All books were on loan for the entirety of the session.
One reader commented on their experience, “It was quite amazing gaining that very personal perspective, and it is very unusual in day-to-day life to get that very personal perspective. I think in the world today with a growing divide between people, events such as these help us to bridge that gap.”
Another reader remarked, “Having that connection with people instead of assuming and guessing. We assume that people have a certain life, but really, we don’t even know ourselves that well, and so how do we think that we could know other people better? Without having any expectations, I came out of this library reading feeling a lot more inspired.”
Why safe spaces in the community are important
This reflection is helpful in understanding how the Human Library works. Most people are keen to better understand those who are different from them and to an increasing degree accept a soft encounter with their own unconscious bias, but obviously a safe space is needed to do so and knowing that the person volunteered to be an open book on their lived experience, makes all the difference.
Perhaps, the strong demand underlines that we live in a time where many exchanges happen within echo chambers provided by social media and that there is an increasing awareness of the need for meaningful social interaction aimed at helping us better understand the diversity in our communities, helping us learn how to relate and engage across cultures and backgrounds.
A safe space to engage in dialogue with people, whom you might not have the social courage to engage with outside of the library space, is a rare opportunity.
More events on the horizon
That Sunday afternoon at the premises of the Society of Authors also left us with tremendous inspiration. Seeing the great turnout, feeling the ambiance, and talking with a lot of happy readers, it was evident that there is a need for these accessible formats such as the Human Library Book Café and so we are already planning more opportunities for readers in London, Norwich, Edinburgh, Warwick, Manchester and Plymouth for 2022.